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SAS grounds more than 1,200 flights as pilot strike continues

Analysts say the protest costs SAS 60-80m Swedish kronor per day, which may wipe out annual profit

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The strike has grounded around 70 per cent of the airline's flights and impacted about 280,000 passengers including the latest cancellations.

Stockholm

SCANDINAVIAN airline SAS cancelled more than 1,200 flights scheduled for Monday and Tuesday as a pilot strike that has disrupted the travel plans of hundreds of thousands of passengers entered its third day on Sunday.

SAS pilots went on strike on Friday as wage talks broke down, grounding around 70 per cent of the airline's flights and impacting about 280,000 passengers including the latest cancellations.

"We deeply regret that our customers are affected by the ongoing pilot strike when SAS now cancels flights on Monday and Tuesday," the airline said. "The strike will affect an additional 61,000 passengers on Monday when 667 flights are cancelled across Scandinavia. On Tuesday 49,000 passengers and 546 departures will be affected."

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The deadlock in the dispute showed no sign of being broken early on Sunday with both SAS, Swedish and Danish pilots unions and Norway's employers association NHO saying no renewed contacts between the parties had been initiated.

"We believe the unions have to face reality and resume talks," Torbjoern Lothe at the Norwegian Confederation of Enterprise, an employers' association involved in the negotiations with the unions last week, told Reuters.

Norsk Pilotforbund, one of two SAS pilot unions in Norway, said it had had no contact with the airline, as did Rawaz Nermany, chairman of the Swedish Airline Pilots Association.

"We are waiting for SAS to get in touch and show a real will to discuss the issues that are important to us," he said. "So far, they have not wanted to do that." A spokesman for the Swedish National Mediation Office, whose proposed deal the pilots rejected late on Thursday, said there were "no immediate plans" for contacts between the parties in Sweden.

SAS has taken steps such as offering free food to passengers waiting to find alternative flights at airports across Scandinavia, but several travellers complained on social media that they were unable to reach the airline's customer services.

The flag carrier, which is part-owned by the Swedish and Danish governments, has said it is prepared to resume negotiations but warned that meeting pilots' demands would have dire consequences for the company.

The aviation industry's employer body in Sweden has said pilots demanded a 13 per cent wage hike, despite what it called already high average wages of 93,000 Swedish kronor (S$13,317) a month.

The SAS Pilot Group, a union body representing 95 per cent of the airline's pilots in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, says that the dispute concerns more than simply wages, pointing to demands for more predictable and transparent working hours.

Analysts at Sydbank have estimated that the strike is costing SAS 60-80 million Swedish kronor per day, which would effectively wipe out the airline's expected net profit for the year were it to last two weeks.

The strike at SAS does not affect flights operated by its partners, which make up roughly 30 per cent of all departures.

The airline said it was offering passengers booked on flights through May 1 to reschedule free of charge. REUTERS